About ten minutes into “View from the Top,” my boyfriend commented that he was reminded of an old-fashioned porno movie: the scantily-clad stewardesses, the unfeasible situations they get into with their male co-stars and even a cheesy retro soundtrack. He noted just one problem — this porno has no sex.
While I’m not sure if I agree with his analogy (being somewhat unfamiliar with the genre), in one respect he is right on target. “View from the Top” is a porn star of a movie that looks good in leather, but makes all kinds of promises it can’t deliver.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Donna Jensen, an ambitious woman desperate to get out of Silver Springs, Nev., and eager to pursue an in-flight career. Initially her dream only gets her as far as puddle-jumper Sierra Airlines, where she caters to passengers who are all “gamblers and drunks” and meets gal pals Sherry (Kelly Preston) and Christine (Christina Applegate).
Frustrated with Sierra’s tacky uniforms and humdrum destinations, Donna and Christine enroll in a flight attendant training program at prestigious Royalty Airlines. When Donna’s test results land her a job in less-than-exotic Cleveland, she remains dedicated to her goal of “Paris First Class International,” despite the obstacles that get in her way. Will she achieve her dream and find love and adventure in the sky?
The real question is why on earth did Gwyneth Paltrow do this movie? Is she trying to prove that, like Cameron Diaz, she too can be wacky? Or is it perhaps part of her deal with the devil and Harvey Weinstein that, in exchange for blonde hair, perfect skin and “Shakespeare in Love,” she must appear in films like “Bounce”?
This movie is full of good actors with lousy agents, including Mark Ruffalo, whose sincerity touched audiences in “You Can Count on Me.” As John Whitney, the flight-attendant instructor plagued with a lazy eye, Mike Myers is the only silver lining in this enormous cloud of a movie. Unfortunately, he is not in the film long enough to save it. Those who’ve seen trailers for the film will be disappointed to find that, with the exception of Paltrow, all of the featured actors have far less screen time than implied.
The movie’s biggest defect is its confusion of genre. It is part screwball sex-romp in the B-movie tradition of exploitative films from the ’70s and ’80s such as “Coffee, Tea, or Me,” and “Stewardess School.” (You may have seen these movies on the USA network.) Yet at the same time, the film moves along a tediously sentimental “girl-with-a-dream” track. Ultimately, its two tones jumble together in a strikingly unfunny, though good-spirited, failure.
Brazilian director Bruno Barreto seems uncomfortable with this balancing act. Best known for his more potent Oscar-nominated political drama “Four Days in September,” Barreto has regressed to the familiar and banal territory of his little-seen romantic comedies.
With its awkward pacing and lack of character development, the film must have been butchered by at least seven rhesus monkeys. “View from the Top”, shelved in the wake of Sept.11 for what was deemed insensitive content, is just as offensive to taste now as it would have been in 2001.